It is a hard thing to be pregnant again after a loss. It feels a little like being in a campy horror film. You know right away which character is doomed, which doors should stay locked, which scenes mean it’s all over. You want to scream at the t.v. (or in the shower, or in the car, lots of screaming seems appropriate) but you also know that would be futile. In fact, that should be the title of this bloody, predictable film you’re living in, Futile. It all feels futile to you. It all absolutely feels futile to me.
I was innocently sitting at Starbucks, editing a synopsis due to an editor, weighing the pros and cons of pulling the trigger on the chocolate croissant that’d been eyeballing me, and the next sip of my coffee tasted funny. Off somehow. The certainty of it struck me there in my seat. Not because it was planned, or any effort had been made, or because of anything to do with dates and temperatures. Because I just knew. I packed up my laptop and notes, drove home, walked straight to the bathroom, did my thing, found my husband and son in the living room and announced, in perfect monotone, Well I’m pregnant.
I did not feel excited. I did not feel emotional or ecstatic. I felt Eh. I felt like, Oh. Fine.
We went out for nachos, a preplanned lunch date, and I heartlessly pushed my chips around the plate. My husband and I did not hold hands and trade baby names; we didn’t look across the table teary eyed and talk about the beautiful miracle happening in between us. He had the biggest beer they offer and I stared out the window til our food was cold.
(As an aside, had I known I’d soon be saying farewell to all food I would have made a smarter choice that afternoon. And while we’re on the topic I’d like to now apologize to cheeseburgers, the entire cannon of Mexican food, and all things edible and delicious. When we at last reunite it will be Shakespearean, vampires will blush.)
I didn’t want to tell anyone about the positive test. All the emotional heavy lifting that’s required when announcing a miscarriage so far outweighs any shared excitement at the initial belief a baby is coming. But the morning sickness I didn’t expect led to a prolonged absence from basically my entire life. My new exclusive citizenship on the couch meant there would be no guarding this inevitable tragedy. We told people, and over and over friends and family said the words I didn’t feel, “That’s so exciting! Congratulations!”
Eh. Are you congratulating me on my broken belly with the abysmal track record, on the unfortunate baby taking up residence there, or on my “bad luck” diagnosis of two years ago? I thought all of these things. I said, “Thank you.”
When it comes to being pregnant, I will always sleep believing there is a monster breathing under my bed. I will never post a photo to social media holding a pregnancy test just as the color gives way to great news. I won’t download pregnancy trackers or start a newborn board on Pinterest. I will Google though, boy will I ever. Its siren call of statistics and forum discussions waiting to tell me either all is well or lost is too much for me. I will hunch over my phone, thumbs ablaze, going insane.
Mania took hold.
I hire a doula and then immediately regret the decision. I draft in my head the cancellation email I will have to send her in a week or two.
I take my son to a baby store and we choose two newborn outfits that look mostly gender neutral. I do not remove the tags.
I text some girlfriends asking for prayer because I am pretty sure I am having a miscarriage due to my sudden ability to eat lunch. I tell my mom the same thing. No one thinks lunch is all that frightening. I creep back to my forums.
My husband asks if he can share the news with his coworkers. I bite my lip. Doesn’t he know they’ll all pity him? Does he know I pity him?
I watch my son push his wagon around the yard and hear him say one of the three phrases he’s mastered, “OhboyOhboyOhboy,” and feel relief this loss will go over his head. He looks back at me, his only playmate for 85% of his days, and I feel so guilty he won’t have a brother or sister to teach anytime soon.
At my lowest, I began composing a Facebook post to inform our friends and family the pregnancy they’d been rooting for was over. Admittedly, I did so while eating ice chips and saltines, laid up like a wounded zombie. In the midst of my madness I never actually presented any symptoms of miscarriage. I presented symptoms of hopelessness. I just couldn’t name it yet. So this Facebook post, entirely unnecessary, became of extreme importance to me. I needed it to be simple and tactful. People had to be left understanding the pregnancy was lost but our theology was intact.
A new worry set in as I tried to write this sad status update. What if people didn’t believe a person could have three consecutive miscarriages and still love God? I had to be very strategic in my spiritual PR. God was counting on me to defend Him.
I never could get that status just right.
Somewhere in these days that all felt like one unending hangover with the flu with mono with military grade food poisoning, my husband asked if I loved this baby, the one I was waiting on to die.
“No,” was my response. My chin quivered. “I don’t want to. This one will just stiff me at the altar like all the others. Seems reckless to start loving it.”
He thought for a moment, his blue eyes wandered to our fire place and blocks and Thomas books scattered on the floor. “Don’t you know all love is reckless?”
Even in some of the very worst horror films there is a turning point: the main character at last sees the roommate/girlfriend/camp counselor for who they are and starts running out of the woods into which they’d so willingly traveled. “Don’t you know all love is reckless?” At his words I set my feet away from my woods.
All love is reckless, I know this. My mind understands age or disease or accident will come for us all. I don’t buy scrawling art prints to remind me, but I know this. And I don’t let death’s inevitability keep me from loving my parents or my brother or my friends. I do my best not to let it keep me from loving my husband and son.
But with this baby, I was letting death win. I insisted this love be safe. I demanded this love be sterilized. Sterile things are often cold, and empty, and hard metal. I couldn’t love this baby because I was hurt by my history, but let’s be real here. I couldn’t love this baby because I was afraid. So I became cold and empty with a heart like cold metal.
There is a story in the bible that meant very little to me five months ago; it’s a horror story in its own right. A desperate father sought Jesus to heal his demon possessed son. The demon was especially strong and had been tormenting this man’s baby boy for years. He wanted his boy healed, no doubt, but the thing is, he’d reached the point where a life without this demon seemed unimaginable. Like all my favorite people, this man is very honest with Jesus. He uses the phrase, “If you can,” in his request. He tells Jesus, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”
I can’t read this story anymore without weeping. That is the song my cold, metal heart is singing as it thaws back to life. That is my battle cry for my baby. Help my hopelessness, my unbelief.
God, keep this tiny heart beating.
God, give me a reckless heart.